Premier League Career: Chelsea (1992-1993), Aston Villa (1993-1997), Middlesbrough (1998-1999)
Andy Townsend spent nearly 20 years playing and has forged a successful career as a co-commentator since his retirement from football in the year 2000. His most successful stint was with Aston Villa, captaining them to League Cup victory in 1996.
Andy began his playing career in the regional leagues. It all began in the Athenian League with Welling United in August 1980. Whilst that was the weekend job, the weekday role was working for Greenwich Borough Council as a computer operator.
It was professional football though that Townsend chased and he made his pro debut with Southampton in April 1985, having been signed for a paltry £35,000 by Lawrie McMenemy. His debut would come against Aston Villa and these two clubs would have another significant link in his career 11 years later.
He enjoyed a challenge, was a real grafter in the centre of midfield and could pop up with the occasional goal too. Southampton sold him to Norwich City in August 1988 for £300,000 and the 1988-1989 was the best individual season of Andy’s career. The Canaries reached the FA Cup semi-finals, finished fourth in the First Division and he was nominated for the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award which was eventually won by Manchester United forward Mark Hughes.
He would represent the Republic of Ireland at international level and played a telling role in their fabulous run to the quarter-finals of the 1990 World Cup, scoring in the penalty shootout victory over Romania in Genoa. As with many Norwich players after him, Townsend was cashed in just weeks later with Chelsea paying £1.2 million pounds. Although his individual performances continued to impress, the Blues’ finished no higher than 11th in the table during Andy’s three seasons in west London.
He moved to Aston Villa in the summer of 1993 and was part of the Villa squad that beat Manchester United in the 1994 League Cup final; the only silverware that the Red Devils’ didn’t win in the 1993-1994 season. He would skipper the side in 1996 to another final win over Leeds United. These two League Cup winners’ medals were the only major honours of Townsend’s professional career. In December 1996, Townsend scored the winning goal for Villa at The Dell against Southampton which was also the Premier League’s 5000th goal.
After 134 Premier League appearances for the Villans and eight goals, Townsend dropped down a division to join Bryan Robson’s Middlesbrough in September 1997. He helped them win promotion back to the top-flight at the first attempt, then made 37 appearances in 1998-1999 was Boro finished a solid ninth in the table. He also formed an impressive partnership with Paul Gascoigne on Teeside and the pair became close friends during their time together at the Riverside Stadium.
Despite interest from his former club Norwich, Townsend returned to the Midlands in September 1999 to finish his playing days at West Bromwich Albion. He retired in July 2000 due to a recurrent knee injury and turned down Gary Megson’s offer for a coaching role with the reserves’ to go into the media.
Townsend became ITV’s main co-commentator after Ron Atkinson’s departure in April 2004 and remained with the network for a decade. He left in 2015 and now works for BT Sport, alongside a consultancy role with Championship returnees Bolton Wanderers. His voice has also been used on many of EA Sports FIFA games alongside former ITV colleague Clive Tydlesey.
He wasn’t the most skilful but wouldn’t give anyone an inch. Andy Townsend was a useful and committed footballer during his career and a wise-head in the media industry nowadays.